Carmen Rasmusen Herbert: Caffeine and controversy

Published: Friday, Sept. 7 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

We were in Las Vegas staying with my mom’s sister for a few days. My mom had a wicked headache a few days before, and my aunt asked if she had taken anything for it. My mom said she usually took Excedrin, but didn’t have any. So my aunt took her to a Taco Bell and got her a Coke. I remember tsk-tsking as my mom gingerly sipped her soda and saying in a very sassy way, “Mom, you’re not supposed to drink caffeine.” Ignoring me, my mom continued to sip her Coke and I even snuck a few tastes here and there, much to her dismay.

Well, a few nights later my cousins and I were up watching a movie. My uncle asked what we wanted to drink. A rebellious thought popped into my head, and before I really knew what I was saying, I burst out, “I’ll have a Coke, please!”

My older, much more wise and strait-and-narrow sister looked at me in disbelief.

“You can’t have that!” she hissed. “We’re not allowed!”

“Uh-huh, mom said I could,” I said, which was a far stretch from the truth. I have no idea where the Molly went, but suddenly I was embracing the Jack side of Mormon, lies and all, and enthusiastically encouraged my confused uncle to pour me a glass on the rocks.

My sister cried.

These are funny memories for us now, but looking back in seriousness, I appreciate what my sister and mom were trying to instill in me. It’s not about whether or not you do or don’t drink Coke.

For me, obeying what The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints calls the Word of Wisdom has never been a trial or struggle. I’ve never felt I’ve missed out on anything. I’ve been the better for it. And even now that a church website has re-clarified the letter of the Word of Wisdom, it won’t change my choice of beverage when out to eat.

Root beer, as usual.

Carmen Rasmusen Herbert is a former "American Idol" contestant who writes about entertainment and family for the Deseret News.

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